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Huge Victory for School Choice…but not in Nevada

(Chuck Muth) – A gaggle of school voucher-haters – led by the Arizona School
Boards Association and the Arizona teachers union – filed a lawsuit
challenging the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA)
program. Among other things, the voucher haters maintained that the
voucher program violated the state’s constitution since the
vouchers could be used in religious schools.

Such constitutional prohibitions in state constitutions are generally
known as “Blaine Amendments” – and Nevada has one, too. But
the trial court “found the Religion Clause was not violated because
the state ‘is not directing where monies are to go,’ so there
‘is no purpose by the State to directly benefit any religious
school.’”

The school voucher haters appealed.

On October 1st the Arizona Court of Appeals struck a huge victory for
school choice by soundly rejecting the appeal.

“The ESA is a system of private choice that does not have the
effect of advancing religion,” Judge Jon W. Thompson wrote.
“Where ESA funds are spent depends solely upon how parents choose
to educate their children. Eligible school children may choose to
remain in public school, attend a religious school, or a nonreligious
private school. … We therefore concur with the trial court that the
ESA does not violate the Religion Clause.”

AMEN!

Great for Arizona kids and parents, but yet another sad example of
just how inconsequential the first term of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval
(R&R-Partners) has been.

Much like the tax issue, Sandoval talked a good game on the campaign
trail in 2010. He regularly and often expressed support for school
vouchers and promised to pursue them. Then he got elected. And has
done next to nothing.

Indeed in his first legislative session in 2011, instead of embracing
then-Assemblyman Ed Goedhart’s comprehensive school voucher
proposal – the Excellence in Education and Increased Opportunities
Act (EIEIO), which was fully vetted for constitutionality as it
relates to Nevada’s own Religion Clause – Sandoval instead put
forward a needless bill to remove Nevada’s Blaine Amendment from
the Constitution.

Worse, his bill never received a hearing, let alone a vote. Yet the
governor didn’t raise a peep of protest.

Sandoval came back this year with a complicated and convoluted
education tax credit bill – even though Nevada has neither a
corporate or personal income tax that you could easily credit –
rather than pursuing a true universal school voucher bill.

And once again the governor did virtually nothing with his
gubernatorial soapbox or veto pen to insist on even this modest, pale
imitation of school vouchers. As such, legislative Democrats
deep-sixed the proposal and, again, never was heard a discouraged
word from the governor.

Nevertheless, you can bet for the next year the Sandoval re-election
campaign is gonna be telling us what a fantastic job he’s done for
education. If only it were true.